New Chief Scientist and WA Health Department say fracking is safe

October 28th, 2015

Australia’s newly appointed Chief Scientist, Professor Alan Finkel, has weighed into the debate over the safety of fracking, declaring that it can be done safely, with the right oversight.

Speaking on ABC TV’s Lateline, Professor Finkel said:

“The evidence is not there that it’s dangerous. In fact, the evidence is that, if properly regulated, it’s completely safe.”

The comments come hot on the heels of yet another report backing that position.

The Western Australian Department of Health (DoH) has report supporting the safe use of hydraulic fracturing for unconventional gas.

The DoH report, which details the risks posed by fracking to human health, found that:

“under the right conditions, hydraulic fracturing of shale gas reserves in WA can be successfully undertaken without compromising drinking water sources.”

This report follows on from, and supersedes, an earlier series of statements and recommendations made by the DoH to the WA Legislative Council’s Inquiry into the implications for Western Australia of hydraulic fracturing for unconventional gas in 2013. Those recommendations have since been addressed by regulatory agencies in WA, including the Department of Mines and Petroleum, the WA Environmental Protection Authority and the Department of Water.

On multiple occasions, WA regulatory agencies have shown a willingness to engage and a commitment to address this topical issue, including the recently released all-agency approach to managing fracking activities.

The DoH report makes specific mention of the depth of fracking for shale and tight gas nothing that:

“in WA, shale and tight gas reserves have been identified at depths of between two and four kilometres below ground level which are a considerable distance below potable ground water sources.”

The Department has also taken into account the learnings from other jurisdictions, such as the United States and Queensland, and identifies a number of key themes including the importance of robust regulation, using appropriate risk mitigation strategies and hazard assessments.

None of this comes as any great surprise to close watchers of the industry. While it may not suit the narrative of activist groups, it does add to the fact base that clearly states that fracking can be undertaken safely with the right regulatory framework.

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